One Finger Johnny

One Finger Johnny

One Finger Johnny was an actual kid I taught, and he preferred the index finger above all others.

He was a very smart 9 year-old boy.

He was very enthusiastic about learning Fur Elise, a song by Beethoven, and so we started to learn it, despite his lack of the fingering skill that the song requires.

My piano teacher’s instinct was to let him try it without fingering at first, to get the idea of how it looked on the keyboard, and then later attempt to apply fingering.

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He readily understood the rather complicated pattern of notes, and got it in a few tries.

It was then that I tried fingering.

I instructed him how to use certain fingers for certain notes, and took small three or four note bits so it would be easy to understand.

But it wasn’t easy to understand. He had no experience (or just one lesson’s worth) with his fingers, and was at a complete loss remembering which finger to use where.

For a moment, my mind was becoming impatient with the boy, thinking, “But this is so easy.”

But it was not easy for this boy, and that was all that mattered.

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I watched his face as he tried. He was trying very hard, and he wasn’t being lazy or inattentive at all. In fact he has a wonderful attitude, sunny and unconcerned. As I tried to push the fingering on him gently, I watched him get frustrated for a second.

It was then I realized that he was doing his best, and if I wanted him to enjoy Fur Elise on this day, fingering was going to have to take a back seat.

He could fail at fingering Fur Elise because of lack of preparation in fingering, or play it with one finger and enjoy it.

Guess what we did?

We played Fur Elise joyously with one finger for ten minutes, and then I quickly changed the subject to finger organization games. I did this to start giving him training in “fingerology” which had nothing to do with the song.

Eventually, the fingering games will lead to a greater awareness on his part of his fingers and that is the first step in being able to negotiate a song like Fur Elise.

The advantage of having him learn Fur Elise in this simplified form is his enthusiasm for the song.

Never trade a technical accomplishment if it is purchased at the expense of the child’s enjoyment of the song.

I guarantee you this kid will play it with fingering, if not next week, then the next.

But I didn’t kill his enthusiasm to be a “good teacher.”

A child’s enthusiasm, at first, is always more important than your curriculum.

Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press


What Is Fingering?

Children’s Piano Fingering Overview

When Is Fingering Necessary?

Knowing When To Back Off

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